One of the less-touted prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, shortstop Paul DeJong has soared past expectations since his promotion on May 28, capping it off with a Rookie of the Month award in July where he hit .298/.347/.638 with eight HRs and sixteen RBIs.
Paul DeJong‘s emergence has been a huge relief for a team that continues to be quite lacking in shortstop depth. With last year’s breakout Aledmys Diaz falling completely off of the radar, the St. Louis Cardinals were left with just Greg Garcia at shortstop. And Greg Garcia is not a starting shortstop by any stretch of the imagination.
Looking back, shortstop stability hasn’t exactly been a problem for the Cardinals. The team hasn’t had a shortstop stay for longer than three years since Edgar Renteria, and the only one of those to stay longer than two since Renteria left after the 2004 season was his replacement: David Eckstein.
Going back to DeJong, people should wait to weigh their ledger on him. While he did lead the NL’s rookie class in July with twenty-eight hits and eight homers, he also struck out thirty times. While he is having great success now, don’t be surprised if someone with a 67:8 K-to-BB ratio starts to register a few more outs.
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Despite this glaring flaw, DeJong has given us reason for optimism not only in the pop he has shown in July, but in the steady improvement of his eye. Despite how horrible that 67:8 ratio looks as a whole, his ratio in July was 30:7. Whether he’s really improving his eye or just riding a great wave of rhythm is yet to be seen, though my bets are on the latter.
Over his last five games (carrying over into August), he is 1-for-18. While this is a sign of him cooling off, there is a chance that he can still rebound and continue his steady improvement. Despite his struggles, he was able to maintain a solid 7:3 K-to-BB ratio, showing that he is- in fact- becoming less swing happy as the season progresses. But will it pay off?
Improving your eye is great, but DeJong improving his eye will only go so far. If he isn’t making contact with the ball, the power that makes him valuable is neutralized. If he can sustain the rhythm he had in July then we can talk about DeJong being a possible solution at shortstop. But 1-for-18 certainly doesn’t help.
Don’t get me wrong, I am really rooting for DeJong, and hope that he is able to become the Cardinals shortstop for the next half-decade, or even longer. I just don’t know if he will continue to develop to consistently be the player he was in July, or the one who drew just one walk in June.